Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dyscrasia Fiction, S. E. Lindberg

Helen’s Daimones, by S.E. Lindberg, IGNIS Publishing LLC, Dyscrasia Fiction
204 pages. Front cover art by Daniel Landerman.

This is the third book in the Dyscrasia series by Lindberg, following after Lord of Dyscrasia and Spawn of Dyscrasia. Here again we find the combination of beautiful language and powerful imagination that informed the first two books. The result is a unique fantasy vision that is both artistic and effective. The “Dsycrasia” novels are hallucinogenic, dream-like, full of wraiths and apparitions. Ideas and images pile one on top of another with an intensity that is far from common in fantasy literature. I admire the author’s ability to maintain that intensity throughout his works; his world-building never stumbles.

This volume also introduces Helen, a young girl who immediately evokes both sympathy and admiration. I liked this touch because it gives readers a very human character we could strongly root for. Most of the other characters are inventive and complex but not entirely human. They are fascinating, but not as easy for the reader to inhabit. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Helen, and at the end of “Daimones” the author hints at things to come. I know there is a fourth book in the works. I’m looking forward to it. Here's the link on Amazon

Friday, November 10, 2017

Charles Recommends: Sword and Planet Fiction

I'm going to start a new feature both here on the blog and on facebook in which I’ll recommend my top five or so books in each genre that I’m familiar with. I'll limit it to one book per author in each of those genres. What I'd love to get back is other folks' recommendations in those genres as well. I'm always looking for new good books to read. Below are my top five recommendations in Sword & Planet fiction.

1. Swordsmen in the Sky: My favorite fantasy collection of all time. This is the collection that, more than anything, made me want to write Sword & Planet stories. Contains: Swordsman Of Lost Terra by Poul Anderson, People of the Crater by Andre Norton, The Moon That Vanished by Leigh Brackett, A Vision of Venus by Otis Adelbert Kline, and Kaldar, World of Antares, by Edmond Hamilton

2. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the one that started it all for me. The first in the Barsoom series by Burroughs. John Carter gets to Mars and has his first adventures. I loved it so much that from the moment I read it I began making up my own stories about this kind of character and world. Eventually, the Talera cycle resulted. I owe ERB so much for the joy he gave me and the inspiration he was for me with these books.

3. A Sword for Kregen, by Alan Burt Akers (AKA Kenneth Bulmer): This is the first Dray Prescot book that I ever read, and it is still my favorite. Dray Prescot meets a better swordsman than he is, which was unique in my experience with Sword & Planet fiction up to that time. The book also involves a game of living chess, or the Kregen equivalent of that, called Jikaida. I still remember finding this book at a small used bookstore in Russellville, Arkansas when I was in college there. Just a great story.

4. Aldair in Albion, by Neal Barrett, Jr.: This is the first in a four book series that has to be one of the most unique S & P works out there. It’s a bit outside the standard realm for S & P fiction because it actually takes place on a future earth. However, the feel of it—to me—is sword & planet with a healthy dose of animal fable. This is a story about a world abandoned by humans but only after they raised many other species to sentience. The main character is an intelligent, upright walking pig. But although that sounds like food for hilarity, the story is full of adventure and excitement.

5. In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, by S. M. Stirling: Stirling knocked it out of the park with this one. A wonderful revival of the Sword and Planet genre, and set on Mars no less. Great action, fantastic and wonderful characters, and a powerful ending. A truly enjoyable experience.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Traveler Series, D. B. Drumm

This is the first in a post-apocalyptic series that seems clearly influenced by the movie Road Warrior. It's credited to D. B. Drumm. It takes place about fifteen years after a "nuke-out," which seems to have occurred in this book's timeline around 1984. That's when the book was written. It features a man known only as Traveler, although we do learn his real last name late in the book. It's Paxton.  Traveler is an ex-special forces soldier who, while in "El Hiagura" (El Salvador) before the war,  was exposed to a very nasty neurotoxin that often causes him great pain but which also seems to provide him with some extra-sensory ability to detect emotions. 

In this volume, Traveler stumbles into a town where two opposing war-lords divide the town between them. Shades of Kuroisowa's "Yojimbo" and Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars." As one might expect, Traveler ends up pitting the two sides against each other. The book also reveals that a man who betrayed Traveler back before the war is still alive, and that he serves the ex-president of the United States, a man named Frayling, who appears to be a rather thinly veiled substitute for Ronald Reagan, who was president from 1981 to 1989. It further reveals that at least one of Traveler's friends from before the war is still alive. These two discoveries provide a set up for the continuing series.

As with most of these men's adventures books of the era, D. B. Drumm was a house name for the series. It appears that Ed Naha wrote this first volume, and he and John Shirley traded off on the books through the rest of the series.

I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit and will look for others in the series. There are apparently thirteen volumes. Although the story is pretty standard, the writing was good and the character interesting. Better done than many in the post-apocalyptic genre. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Free Ebook, Harmland

For Halloween, and for a couple days after, my "Harmland" collection is free to download as an ebook at Amazon. This is a collection of noir and horror stories. There's over 20,000 words of material here, including such tales as "Whiskey, Guns, and Sin," "The Grey Inside," "The Finding," and others.

One of the stories, "The Toad," is about half autobiographical. You'll have to guess which half. There's also a Cthulhu Mythos story called "The Vivarium."

If you read ebooks, why not give it a download. And if you do read it, I'd appreciate a review, of course.

Download here:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sirens Call

The Sirens Call, Issue 35, is out just in time for Halloween. This is a dark fiction, dark poetry ezine that has really good production values and a plethora of creepy/scary stories and poems. It's 144 pages of material, and is free to download. I have three poems in it, "In Wormwood Days of Wither," "Mother Cold-Eyes," and "A Hiss of Angels."

Why not check it out? It costs you nothing. And if you like it there is a place for comments at the publication site, which is here. You just have to click on the magazine cover at the site (not the one below) to download your free PDF.

Monday, October 16, 2017

When a Book Goes Out of Print

Cold in the Light was the third book I wrote but the first to be published. Invisible College Press picked it up in 2002 an it sold modestly. Emphasis on the modestly. This is despite the fact that I believe it was, and is, a really strong thriller. I’m very proud of it.

In September of 2017 I received word from Invisible College Press that they were closing their doors, officially making Cold in the Light “out of print” as of October 2017. The question then becomes, what next?

I see two possibilities: First, I could seek out another small press publisher who might be interested. Second, I could self publish it. Frankly, because I believe it is really good, I’d like to try another publisher who might have more marketing sense than I apparently have. I’m going to take a bit of time to look around.

Another issue that has arisen though is whether I should update the book. My writing skills have, hopefully, improved since this book was written in the 1990s. I at first just assumed I’d update and started going through it. A problem quickly became apparent. The technology has changed dramatically since the book was published. And not only that, but the geographic setting has changed. When I wrote Cold in the Light, Highway 71 was the main route students took to get to the University of Arkansas. That is no longer true.

My alternatives then became, rewrite the tech and the geography, which will require considerable work, or simply set the book in the past time in which it was originally written. I already have times and days mentioned in the book so I could easily establish a year. What do you think of the latter idea? Have you read books like that? Do you care if a thriller is essentially set in the past? Or do you want your thrillers to be "torn from today's headlines?" Before I make any further changes to the work I need to make this decision. Any feedback would be appreciated.